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The C Shop Way March 19, 2011

Posted by Saara in Admin, Behind the Scenes, Community.

You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever. ~ Germaine Greer

As we ease into a new season, it’s a good time to reflect a bit before the busy-ness of summer hits.

This summer The C shop will be celebrating its 40th birthday. Milestones are a good time to think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s clear that The C Shop has been part of the Birch Bay community for a long time and has hopefully brought a little bit of brightness and joy to everyone that visits. It’s been an incredible labor of love and Patrick and Patricia Alesse’s hard work and dedication shine through in all aspects of what The C Shop has to offer.

As we move into the second generation, we intend to work just as tirelessly to keep The C Shop relevant and ensure that we don’t lose any of the charm that makes it so special. We love hearing stories from people whose grandmothers had a beach cabin and would bring them to the shop for candy and ice cream. Now those same folks bring their own children and are creating another batch of wonderful memories.

We’re going to be introducing some new technology to make sure that we keep up with modern life and modern kids keep up with us. We’ve had free WiFi for quite a few years, but this year we’re getting a new booster antenna so the signal should be even better. Over the winter, we’ve been updating our profiles on Yelp and Urbanspoon. Our Facebook page has over 200 “likes” and each post often gets over 500 impressions. There’s this blog and we occasionally even tweet. There are other things brewing too, but those announcements will just have to wait.

More visibly, we’re continuing to improve our infrastructure. At about 40 is when most people finally realize their mortality and start watching their diets and exercise a little bit more. Businesses should do the same although not as many are fortunate enough to reach this anniversary. While The C Shop business might be middle-aged, our building is certainly elderly having been built in the 1890’s! She’s got good bones though, so there’s no reason to worry about the next 40 years with proper care.

So how do we ensure that The C Shop survives these economic hard times? Many great restaurants, bakeries and other businesses are closing their doors nearly every day. This has been fortunate for us in allowing us to get great deals on some sorely needed equipment. Our joy in finding the bargains is tempered by sadness for the businesses that have closed. We are all better off with more small businesses in operation and thriving. Both The C Shop and the Bay Cafe are better off when both businesses are successful. The relationship is truly more cooperation than competition.

We’re going to continue tweaking our products and our prices. Some products will have to go up in price, but some will come down as we find a better way to make them or a better supplier. For example, we’ll be making all the chocolate-dipped seafoam in house so we’ll have a better quality fresher product at no added cost. We’re cross-training and having more crew that can work both candy and cafe. We have so many wonderful employees that come back year after year to help us and they are truly our greatest asset. They are what makes working at The C Shop so much fun for us and we hope that all your interactions with our crew are positive for you.


Emily with her PollyAnna Sunshine award


Which brings me around to the inspiration for this post. I was reading The Costco Connection the other morning and saw this description of “The Costco Way”:

“… Costco is premised on some of the very values that run counter to so many of the trends of recent years: offering a fair deal for members, treating suppliers with respect, giving employees decent wages and a good place to work, striving for constant improvement, avoiding the self-negating quest for perfection, serving the local community, being mindful of the global implications of what we do and never forgetting to have fun along the way.”

That really struck a chord with me and it is a good summary of the decent way to operate a business. Costco is a large corporation, but Jim Sinegal is a prime example of how to be successful in business and not lose sight of your values. Instead of being a fat cat CEO, his salary is 10 times that of the average employee. They’re not perfect either, but they seem to have that constant improvement thing down.

The C Shop is a small corporation, but we have values that we share with Costco. Those values are one of the reasons that they are one of our suppliers.

An even bigger business inspiration is Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They are celebrating 29 years of service this year and they are much more than a deli. We’re a lot alike since we both have lots of irons in the fire and have a large variety of offerings. They’re a deli, we’re a deli; they have a bakehouse, we have a baker; they are a coffee roaster, Patrick roasts our coffee beans; they make candy, we make candy; they have fun, we have fun! What’s different? They’ve got 500 employees and we have about 50. We also don’t do anywhere near as much business as they do, which is good. 🙂

However, what they do have is an awesome vision!

Zingerman’s Mission Statement
We share the Zingerman’s experience selling food that makes you happy giving service that makes you smile in passionate pursuit of our mission showing love and care in all our actions to enrich as many lives as we possibly can.

Zingerman’s Guiding Principles
Great Food
Great Service
A Great Place to Shop & Eat
Solid Profits
A Great Place to Work
Strong Relationships
A Place to Learn
An Active Part of Our Community

Those values are something for us at The C Shop to aspire to and we already do well in many of those ways, but we know we can do better for us and for you. We’re working on our own mission statement and guiding principles for what we want The C Shop to be now and in the future. We strive to make The C Shop a fun place to work where customers and employees are valued.

And we certainly try to have fun along The C Shop Way!



1. Lighten Up - March 27, 2011

It’s clear that you put a lot of thought into your business. It shows throughout. I only wish you were open more in the “shoulder season” as we are retired and love to explore when kids are in school and tourist towns are less crowded. But OK, we’ll just mingle with the crowds in order to get a sandwich on bread with freshly ground flour!

I like that you can acknowledge that a larger business – Costco – can do some good, too. In a recent conversation with a local dairy farmer, I learned that Starbucks was instrumental in getting Darigold to get the hormones out of the milk it sells. I’ll take good influences wherever I can get them. (BTW, Starbucks is turning 40 this year, too. We remember when they were just one store, then two.)

Congratulations, and keep up the good work.

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